Dutch police arrest over 1,500 people at Extinction Rebellion protest in The Hague

By Mick Krever, Niamh Kennedy and Sophie Tanno, CNN

CNN  —  Dutch police arrested over 1,500 people after Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked a motorway in The Hague on Saturday.

Hundreds of police were deployed to “maintain public order” during the climate protest, Dutch police said in a press release Saturday.

According to police, shortly before midday local time, the activists descended upon the Utrechtsebaan (A12) motorway, after riot police prevented them for reaching “the underpass that they wanted to block.”

The activists then began protesting in front of the police line, prompting police to “directly” and “repeatedly” ask them to leave, according to the press release.

Extinction Rebellion Netherlands said that police deployed water cannons within 15 minutes of protesters blockading the A12 despite, according to the group, there being “no question of a dangerous or threatening situation.”

Activists on the highway in front of a police line, in Den Haag, Netherlands, on May 27, 2023.
Activists are arrested after blocking the A12 motorway in The Hague.

Videos of the protest posted in social media showed protesters dressed in swimsuits and raincoats, prepared for the water cannons.

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, Raki Ap said in the statement that thousands of people had protested “on and next to the A12 with one demand: stop fossil fuel subsidies.”

Dutch actress Carice van Outen, best known for her role as Melisandre in hit TV show, “Game of Thrones,” was reportedly hit by a water cannon and arrested by police at the protest, according to Dutch public broadcaster, NOS. Earlier on Saturday, van Outen posted a video on her Instagram page of musicians playing Beethoven, calling it a “peaceful and musical protest.”

“Most of the activists, 1,539 people, were arrested for violating the Public Demonstrations Act,” the press release said, adding that the Public Prosecution Service will not be pursuing criminal action as it is only a minor criminal offense under Dutch law.

Forty people were arrested for other criminal offenses including obstructing, blocking, vandalism, and insulting, according to the press release. One person was arrested for resisting arrest resulting in injury. These cases remain under review, according to the police.

Arrests in Germany

The arrests in the Netherlands come after Germany’s authorities this week conducted a series of raids against the comparable climate activist group Last Generation.

A total of 15 properties in seven German states were searched as part of the raids conducted on behalf of the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) and the Munich General Public Prosecutor’s Office, authorities said.

The Prosecutor General’s Office in Munich said it had initiated a preliminary investigation “due to numerous criminal complaints from the population” against a total of seven defendants aged 22 to 38 years, “on the charge of forming or supporting a criminal organization.”

On Germany’s right, political figures were approving of the authorities’ crackdown on the climate group.

The leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party, Friedrich Merz, wrote on Twitter that causing “mass damage to property, graffiti or memorial plaques, or gluing oneself to the streets or cars are quite simply criminal offenses.”

He added, “It is correct that police and prosecutors are taking action against the Last Generation and those who finance it.”

Some, though, questioned the move. Die Linke (The Left) Member of Parliament Lorenz Gosta Beutin told Bavarian broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk prosecutors were “putting themselves above our judiciary and courts.”

A member of parliament for Germany’s Green Party, Helge Limburg, agreed that the “blanket assumption” of the group as criminal was legally questionable in an interview with Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

The UK in 2020 threatened to class Extinction Rebellion as an organized crime group, which would have seen activists face jail terms of up to five years, although the plans did not come to fruition.

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